According to the Urology Care Foundation, anywhere from a quarter to one-third of Americans suffer from urinary incontinence. Unfortunately, this statistic isn’t nearly as definitive as the numerical data of other common medical conditions simply because many who have urinary incontinence don’t always seek help.
Far too often, patients are too embarrassed to tell a doctor about their urinary incontinence and its associated symptoms, ultimately letting themselves suffer in silence. While there is absolutely no shame in seeking treatment for urinary incontinence, many Americans would rather submit themselves to the ever-enduring painful spasms. This is especially true for men.
Although we generally associate cases of incontinence with women, it’s not uncommon for men to have it either. However, since incontinence is strongly associated with women, men who do develop it feel too ashamed to speak up. While this greatly hinders the capability of incontinence studies, it also forms the stigma that incontinence is a ‘woman’s affliction’. Doctors, researchers, and other medical practitioners are working hard to end this inaccurate ideology and give both men and women the confidence and assurance to speak up about their battle with urinary incontinence.
Urinary Incontinence in Men
The true number of men who suffer from urinary incontinence is very much unknown. This is largely because many studies on urinary incontinence are centered around women, as well as the fact that most men don’t seek treatment for it. In one study conducted by the National Association for Continence, research showed that roughly 18% of men with symptoms of incontinence discussed the issue with a doctor (source). And while that 18% is only comprised of the few men who stepped forward and admitted their ailment, that still leaves over millions and millions of Americans with undiagnosed symptoms.
Additionally, in a separate study organized by UT Southwestern and published in the journal Urology, researchers found that men who suffer from stress incontinence–incontinence that occurs from physical activity, coughing, exertion, etc.–will suffer the symptoms for approximately two years before seeking help from a medical professional. Additionally, about one-third will wait for more than five years (source).
Diagnosis and Treatment
Urinary incontinence in men could develop as a side effect from certain medications, surgeries (especially prostatectomies), aging, and more. It’s true that male incontinence is not as widespread as incontinence in women, but it is still a very common occurrence. In light of this pressing issue, Dr. Joceline Fuchs, Assistant Instructor of Urology, explains, “Our goal is to spread the word that effective treatments exist for men with stress urinary incontinence, but also to facilitate an immediate and accurate diagnosis among stress urinary incontinence patients.” It’s true, there are many different treatment methods that greatly help soothe symptoms, decrease the frequency of urination, and altogether improve the quality of life for many patients. Unfortunately, even with this information out there and prominent, millions of men and women still refuse to seek treatment.
To get a better understand as to why so many men hide their pain with urinary incontinence, the researchers at UT Southwestern decided to conduct an alternative study. In this study, researchers reviewed the cases of 572 men who were evaluated for anti-incontinence surgery in Dallas, Texas between 2007 and 2017. In their research, they found that the median length of time the men waited to seek professional help was 32 months. More than a third of this group waited over five years. Additionally, the group of patients who were in their 80’s claimed to of waited approximately seven years.
Currently, doctors and medical officials are still working tirelessly to show that urinary incontinence in men is entirely normalized. Most importantly, seeking treatment can make all the difference in their lives.